The Future of Orthopedics

What role will stem cells play?

Written by Kandace Stolz

The future of orthopedics lies in the hands of the doctors who dictate what procedures need to be performed in order to correct disorders so that the patients may remain functional. As the age of baby boomers increases, the number of these procedures doubles, and in some areas, triples. Typical protocol for mundane joint or spine ailments is surgery. The greatest detriments to an orthopedic procedure are complete failure of the process, infection, joint stiffness, or blood clots. With these disadvantages on record, new research and data is bringing newfangled technology to the table, and orthopedic surgeons are rushing to grasp a better understanding of Regenerative Medicine and the benefits it can provide.

Dr. Pettine explains the stem cell injection process and the equipment used to a group of symposium observers. © 2013 Kenneth Pettine, MD

According to several experts, regenerative medicine is the practice of rejuvenating cell function throughout the body, bringing relief to damaged areas. Orthopedics use regenerative medicine to repair damaged tissues in and around joints.Stem cells are extracted from the patient, spun in a centrifuge to obtain optimal numbers of highly nutrient cells, and reinserted into the damaged area of the same patient. The hope with regenerative medicine in orthopedics is for the cells to follow the lead of other healthy cells within the body and correct deficiencies. The latest practice is to treat spinal malfunctions, like degenerative disc disease or stenosis. Recently, the Premier Stem Cell Institute and Dr. Kenneth Pettine hosted a stem cell symposium with a cadaver lab where participants could observe first hand the simple application process for regenerative medicine.

Joining a symposium to discuss regenerative medicine can be a fascinating experience. Learning the dynamics of new data coupled with state of the art techniques only adds to the knowledge. For the Premier Stem Cell Institute, in Johnstown, Colorado, educating medical personnel and potential patients has become a passion. Several physical therapists, chiropractors, and inquiring patients packed into a room to listen to Dr. Pettine highlight the elements of his research, including his data and progress. In recent years, he has afforded much of his time and energy performing trial studies involving stem cells. His data and patient feedback collected have made a remarkable imprint on the advancement of regenerative medicine.

Dr. Pettine emphasized Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapies, including autologous bone marrow concentrate and placental matrix derived. The autogolous bone marrow or adult stem cell therapy is more commonly used at the Premier Stem Cell Institute. The procedure is advantageous because of its brevity. It is a same day procedure with limited pain, and down time is greatly reduced compared to a more invasive surgery looking to achieve similar results. Study results from the lumbar and cervical areas suggest patients undergoing this procedure had greater than 50% improvement with a decrease in pain levels, and daily functions increased dramatically. Similar findings were relayed with regards to the Placental matrix derived therapy.

Dr. Statley practices stem cell injections on a cadaver with Dr. Pettine guiding the process. © 2013 Kenneth Pettine, MD

Once the data was presented, Dr. Pettine invited his guests to the cadaver lab for a better understanding of the procedures and provided a hands-on approach. Recently, Dr. Pettine opened a new surgical center, Arete, with education and research in mind. During the symposium, observers had the opportunity to partake in the stem cell injection procedure using a cadaver in the new state of the art surgery complex. It provided a basic idea of the areas that can be treated with stem cells, the injection process, and the equipment utilized. Additionally, another room was equipped with cadavers for those wanting to learn more about the coflex® implant (Paradigm Spine Inc., New York, NY), a less invasive surgical procedure increasing the degenerative space between discs. Participants were able to perform mock procedures involving injections and the coflex® implantation.

For observers like Natalee Franz, a pre medical student with hopes of becoming an orthopedic surgeon one day, the symposium was a highlight for her academic goals. According to Ms. Franz the overall experience was very informational and gave her “a solid foundation of knowledge from which I could expand on through conversation and the cadaver lab.” She went on to include, “in my limited research, I have only ever read about the great potential of stem cells.” She only became aware of the benefits stem cells offer through Dr. Pettine’s presentation and his cadaver lab. Others shared similar opinions emphasizing the importance of possible alternatives to invasive surgery for the growing numbers of baby boomers and other patients suffering from joint and spine injuries. Dr. Pettine hosts his unique symposiums often demonstrating his research efforts and groundbreaking findings. Educating his constituents gives them the opportunity and forum to broaden their knowledge with regenerative medicine and learn where the future of orthopedics is headed.